I place as much reliance on farmer testimonials in ads for agricultural products as I do in the daily horoscope, which is to say none at all. This isn’t to suggest that the farmer making the testimonial is lying or even exaggerating what he sees as the facts. However, if enough farmers try a product, even one that has no more ability to increase crop yields or quality than a spoonful of sand spread over a ten-acre field, a few farmers will have wonderful crops (usually due to favorable growing weather). The success of the crop had nothing to do with the foo-foo dust he sprinkled on the seed or the soil, but the dealer selling the farmer the foo-foo dust will convince the farmer that it alone was responsible for the bumper crop; he’ll get the farmer to agree, and then get a testimonial to that effect. The dealer can go to ten farmers who used the foo-foo dust and if he can convince only one that the stuff worked–of this farmer testimonials are born. Consider this: Have you ever seen an ad with a negative testimonial: “Yep, I tried foo-foo dust and I don’t think it did a darned thing. I got just as good a crops where I didn’t use it.”
Of course this doesn’t stop some farmers from trying even the wildest, most unlikely product. Many years ago a fellow came down to Northern N.Y. from Quebec with a station wagon full of bags of mineral supplement for dairy cattle. He claimed that the supplement (which turned out to be mostly sodium chloride) “flushed mastitis out of cows” and was completely safe, even to the point where if the farmer found blood in the milk it was OK to sell the milk, “it’s just the mastitis coming out of the cow.” The farmer who asked me about this said that it was about the craziest idea he’d ever heard of. I said that I wish I could see a bag of it, whereupon he said (quite sheepishly), “Come on out to the barn, I bought a couple bags of it.” But even something as wild as this can result in a farmer testimonial, especially if even one farmer’s mastitis problem appeared to decrease after he start to feed the salt. In this case we never found out much more about the miracle salt since the Quebec fellow was soon “invited” to leave the country by U.S. regulatory officials.